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Harmony for the mind and soul

  • Published at 12:32 pm March 18th, 2015
Harmony for the mind and soul

With over a 100 years of experience, Aston Martin is a car maker that defines itself in three words - power, beauty and soul. This is a British company that has a rich racing heritage and a tradition of creating instantly recognisable, iconic, sports cars.

The Brits are very good at one thing, that’s making cars but over the last few years, England has lost more car companies than they have lost colonies. The classic British makes have fallen prey to the foreigners. Jaguar and Land Rover are now Indian, Rolls Royce and Bentley are German, Lotus - Malaysian. Even Aston Martin had to kneel down in front of the Middle East petrodollars.

For Aston Martin, that tenuous position raised a question: How would the company compete against Ferrari or Bentley?

Spend 10 minutes in the Vanquish, and one thing is for sure, even an irregular car fanatic would wish this 100-year-old company a fruitful, second century.

That is simply because the Vanquish, takes the DBS’s position in the Aston’s stable, and it seems to be appreciated by all as one of the world’s most nakedly pretty automobiles.

Where ever you take the Vanquish, it makes its glamorous way and stands out like the Duchess of Cambridge. It’s even harder to stop because people will pop out of nowhere, to remind you the fact that you were showing off a particularly photogenic child.

As much as so, such gratuitous charm influenced the Aston’s $1.8 million One-77 supercar, which includes the Vanquish’s all-carbon-fibre body, modest recessed front grille and a tuned exhaust system with valves that open their gilded throats under acceleration.

Inside, it wouldn’t be an Aston without ergonomic goofs - awkward glass buttons still control the transmission and the seat controls are buried along the centre console.

There is just so much hand-sewn leather in the cabin that the occupants might dress to match, possibly in those similar full-skin jumpsuits that Eddie Murphy once fancied.

The DBS was the first proper 12-cylinder Aston that drove more like a serious sports car. The One-77, however, indulges the road with even more disrespect; it has perfect 50/50 weight distribution, the steering is quicker and moreover, there is incredible traction from the 20-inch wheels and tires. On the other hand, the adaptive suspension turns surprisingly firm in the sport mode and it crushes downright in track mode.

Aston claims that the six-speed, rear-mounted automatic transmission shifts 37-percent faster, but it’s doddering compared to the sophisticated dual-clutch from Ferrari and Porsche. We think if there were an extra gear or two, it would have helped keep the naturally aspirated V12 in its favourable pedigree.

The standard carbon-ceramic brakes are quite assertive. However, the manual shifter that was available on the DBS is now virtually extinct on automobiles at this level.

That level, it must be said, includes the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, whose numbers and Formula One-bred technology, objectively vanquish the One-77. That 731 V12 horses at 8,700rpm red-line versus the Aston’s 6,800rpm, 211mph top speed versus 200 and a 3.1 second time for not to 60mph. All this blasts off the One-77 into the outer stratosphere, and mind you, the Ferrari costs less, at around $317,000, but buyers at this level aren’t exactly bargain mongers.

Yet it’s easy to see why a wealthy buyer would not prefer the One-77’s classic, artful approach, and giggle at childish notions of bragging rights. Every single time you drive the One-77, it feels like a once in a lifetime occasion, and we suspect that’s true even for people who can afford one.

There are plenty of pseudo-supercars and not-quite-exotics prowling on the streets but the One-77 is the real deal.